Exploring Martha’s Vineyard Off-Season

My husband, Galen, and I are the new innkeepers at the Lambert’s Cove Inn, a very special 15-room inn in West Tisbury that is currently transforming itself under new ownership. The inn has a restaurant, “Woods”, where Galen (a chef by training and background) will oversee the cooking of delicious, locally-sourced food. Since we arrived on Martha’s Vineyard this February from Charlotte in Vermont, we’ve been writing menus and painting and I, a gardener at heart, have been planning to fall in love with the extensive gardens at Lambert’s Cove Inn.

When we’re not working to get the inn ready to re-open, we’ve been exploring Martha’s Vineyard in the off-season. One local farmer we met, Rebecca at North Tabor Farm in Chilmark (check out their awesome farm stand), told us to “trespass as much as you can!” I don’t think Rebecca was encouraging us to traipse through private property, but I do think she was advising us to wander through and explore parts of the island that might be off-limits during the season. Martha’s Vineyard in the off-season is a place wide open for solitary exploration. Many of the beaches that are inaccessible in the summer because they’re private or limited to town residents are welcoming to curious walkers (and their dogs!) in the colder months of the year.

Though we’ve not yet been on the island in-season, we’ve been warned of the changes, both positive and challenging, that come with an astronomical swell in population in the depths of summer. While we are eager for the inn and the restaurant to be bustling and ringing with the laughter of people enjoying themselves with friends and family, we are also patiently and gratefully beginning to get to know our new island home.

I recently learned from a fascinating article in Martha’s Vineyard Magazine (2017) called “What Did Lucy Think?” by Richard Skidmore that Lucy Vincent was the librarian at the Chilmark Library, and her namesake Chilmark beach, one of the most glorious beaches on the island, was a nude haven for insider hippies in the 1970s that was dubbed Jungle Beach. Upon her death, Lucy Vincent’s beach was acquired by the town (with the assistance of some private investors that included Robert McNamara—Kennedy and Johnson’s Secretary of Defense—a man historically tied to the escalation of the Vietnam War). In-season, Lucy Vincent Beach, a rocky geological masterpiece overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is open only to residents of Chilmark, but in the off-season she offers herself to wanderers of all stripes.

Galen and I explore quietly and slowly with our border collie, Pearl. We are a few miles from Polly Hill Arboretum, which I can’t wait to explore more fully when the plants begin to pop. Polly Hill was a horticulturalist and conservationist who meticulously documented her experiments with plants on the island. It is said that she didn’t begin planting seeds and gardening until she was in her fifties. In the wonderful book published by the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, Vineyard Voices: Words, Faces and Voices of Island People, with interviews by Linsey Lee, Polly Hill, in her interview, says this: “Study your land. Study what is natural here. Walk around the fields. Walk in the woods. Walk along the beaches. Walk everywhere. Study what you see. See the little tiny goodies that are down there, or the big main thing. You have all these levels.”

Bridget Sampson
Lambert’s Cove Inn

2 thoughts on “Exploring Martha’s Vineyard Off-Season”

  1. While Lucy Vincent in Chilmark and Lambert’s Cove in West Tisbury are open to everyone in the fall, don’t go to Philbin beach in Aquinnah because everyone is not welcome with $50 fine for parking at the beach! Beach Stickers not available but $30/day parking. So if you like to fish or just walk the beach, get dropped off.

    • Thanks so much for reading the Martha’s Vineyard Hotels Blog. Yes, Philbin Beach in Aquinnah is another beautiful Martha’s Vineyard beach and as you note, although it is technically a public beach it unfortunately has no public parking. The small parking lot is strictly restricted to town residents and it’s a long walk from the Gay Head parking lot to the beach. So you are right, if you can find somebody to drop you off that is the best option.

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